Thursday, October 2, 2014

Officially Announcing...


Ginger Ray Parker



In honor of our precious new one's 2 week mark, we are finally giving her the gift of a name. While we considered Gaylordita, we opted instead for Ginger Ray Parker, as in, Ginger Ray-of-Sunshine Parker--without officially adding all that sunshine bit to her name. 

A downside of a home birth is that you don't really have a hard and fast deadline to get the name papers signed. You can take up to a year we were told before it gets tricky. Heavens no. Please, give me a deadline! I only work well with deadlines! A while ago Josh suggested Ginger and I liked it, then it grew on me more and more and I really liked it. As the days passed after her birth, Josh and I almost committed fully to Ginger, but I had a hard time committing without a middle name since I call my kids with both first and middle names frequently, so I couldn't have one without the other. We had narrowed it down to these: 

Ginger Rae/Ray
Ginger Soleil
Ginger Merry
Ginger Cheer
Ginger Sunrise
Ginger Gwen

That's the narrowed down version. The catch is that I really wanted a "happy" name to match the girls names, Hazel Bliss and Felicity Jeanne. Josh proved he's a closet hippie when he suggested Ginger Sunrise and that was probably my favorite over all but I knew I wouldn't say it as naturally as Ginger Ray. We both liked Rae/Ray, but disagreed on the spelling. It only meant "Ray of Sunshine" to me if it was spelled Ray. Finally after two weeks Josh said Ray was fine and signed the papers before I could change my mind again. I love you Ginger Ray, I hope you'll forgive your parents for taking way too long on deciding a name for you. You are already a ray of sunshine in our home. xo



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We're moving to Thailand!!!


Hahaha, no, no we aren't. Well, we aren't moving to Thailand, but we are moving to Irvine, CA, or somewhere around there. 

Josh has been looking for a better fit for his job for a while now and he found a job that he just couldn't turn down. He's been looking around for so long that I didn't think this would actually ever pan out to anything for no good reason other than it hadn't yet, so I was stunned when it really did. Any time he's sent out applications I'm like, sure, whatevs. 

"Germany? Sure, whatevs."
"Indiana? Sure, whatevs."
"Boise? Sure, whatevs."
"Sri Lanka? Sure, whatevs."
"Singapore? Sure, whatevs."
"Southern CA? NO, please, NO."

Everywhere else seemed reasonable, but the LA area to me is like a gorgeous bad dream to me. When we were at that airport in May coming back from Thailand I was saying how awesome it would be to live there imagining the warm breezes and palms everywhere. But I say that sort of thing about a lot of places we visit, everywhere has it's charms, but to really buckle down and live in a place is another thing. And LA is it's own thing. When Josh asked if he could apply there, all the gorgeous dreaminess scurried right out of my mind and all I could think of was this:

-rich white people 
-everywhere
-with perfect, tan bodies
-which you will see in skimpy suits wandering around everywhere making the cookie in my hand and the gut on my tummy feel extra shameful instead of delicious even if it's Tuesday or Thursday when I run 8 miles
-groomed neighborhoods with neighborhood watch everywhere (the kind where people watch and report if you're not maintaining standards) telling me what to do, which I sorta can't stand
-intense popularity contests in the schools and girl fights and exclusions with valley girl accents
-making my girls self conscious and having eating disorders by 15 and wanting plastic surgery at 18

Please no. He said please yes. Please apply somewhere else, like around here. Pretty please yes? And so on for about a week straight. I finally relented and they were interested. Every time he got another call I felt sick all day. My birthday went straight downhill when they told him they wanted him to go down for an interview, my heart sunk and I was bummed the rest of the day. Being at Ikea with 3 tired and hungry kids all evening didn't help the birthday spirit much, but that's another story...I blame the call :).

We booked a ticket for me to go down with him to see if I could envision our family living there. It was paradise, seriously, Orange County is just dreamy. It's like straight out of a movie, or a few hundred movies  probably. The weather was awesome, the tropical deserty feel was wonderful, I found a $1 bookstore there that I spent an hour at and no joke, it was that moment that I thought I might be able to survive there. I bought a reusable tote to load up a big carry on of books. Then we ate dinner at Cafe Rio which helped too. Nonetheless, I felt horribly sad about the whole thing because I couldn't find any good reason to say, "Sorry Josh, this place is the pits." 

I realized as we were there that this could actually pan out to something and we would have to make a hard choice. Sure enough, things slowly unfolded with a few twists and turns with the offer, but in the end, an offer and one that Josh wanted to take. He didn't want to move either though, and I was heartbroken about moving, so I thought maybe that was our answer, maybe it would be a good career move but not a good move for our family so we would find something else. I prayed so hard during this time. I think Josh's prayers were a little bit different than mine. Then one night he asked if I could pray that he would get this job and I said I could probably pray that if he were to get this job I wouldn't get hysterical.

Fast forward through the toughest decision of our life and it was time to tell the bosses our decision. I told Josh I needed a week to decide and we would tell them Monday, yesterday. Josh has said throughout this whole thing that he's not sure he wanted to do this either, we kept going back and forth. The job sounded great, but we have an almost ideal life here. It is a truly dreamlike existence in so many ways. I've relished living here on our little slice of paradise. The one downside of it all is that Josh just hasn't been happy at work and knowing that, I knew he needed a change. The more we transformed our house and our yard and built more friendships and my new calling as a Laurel adviser at church (teach 16-17 yr old girls--my dream calling), moving anywhere seemed like the wrong answer. Josh and I were on the fence about it right up until the wire. We fasted about it on Sunday and had decided to move. 

For years my tear ducts seem to be faulty, all dried up. I think it's because after I had kids there was just too much crying, so my crying went way way down and I almost never cry anymore, even when I wish I had that outlet. But every time I'd hear a new development with this job and the thought of our life here slipping away became more and more of a reality I would start to get choked up and I would quickly divert my thoughts away to stave off the tears. Then Sunday night came when Josh and I had to really decide officially that we were doing this. We had some friends over that are from that area and she said it was awesome in the Irvine area, so that helped, but then when it was time to think about doing this for sure I just lost it. 

Like FULL ON LOST IT.

I was so hysterical I even told Josh through my crazy sounds of a dying goat, "I know I look ridiculous and I know this would be a great Saturday Night Live skit and I know we'd laugh later if we had this recorded..." and those were choked out in high pitched squeals and snotty tissues everywhere, not laughs. Later I started laughing and I think Josh felt some relief and then I started right into hysterical crying again. This lasted for about 2 hours.

Things said during this:

Josh: "We can stay. Really, seeing your reaction makes me think we should stay, I'll be fine here, lets stay"
Me crying: "No, I want you to be happy"
Me: "I just want to die...I wish you would suffocate me, but I don't really want to die because I have kids...but I want to die...
Josh: "I can be happy anywhere, lets stay"
Me: "No, you haven't been. We'll be fine, I'll be happy, it's just the dying part that we have to get over first. (At other times when Josh would say we should stay because he didn't want to go if the family wasn't happy there I would tell him that I knew we would be happy there, we could be happy anywhere, it was just like if I died someday, I know he would eventually get remarried and he would be happy. But I have to die first. This move is like that death to me. I have 5 sisters, drama is part of life.)

And so on. Until I remembered a property that we had looked at online that was way out and had 7 acres. 

Me: "Can we get a dog?"
Josh: "..."
Me sobering up fast: "And a horse?" 
Josh: "You are negotiating for a horse right now???" 

The cost of the house would be significantly cheaper even with all that land so I told him we could get a cheapo horse and a dog for a playmate and we could bond as a family over rides in the afternoon. Things really started looking up as I envisioned myself going to sleep with my horse nuzzling my sheets through the half door to our bedroom and my throwing the kids on for our blissful afternoon ride. There isn't really a half door, but there could be. Along with my horses, dogs and chickens...

Josh: "It went from a dog to a dog and a horse and now it's dogs and horses and chickens???"

Josh accepted the offer yesterday. And Josh, the man that wears animal repellent in the way he glares at animals, even said he would consider that home and lifestyle and all that would go with it--as long as he wouldn't have to touch the beast. He is so awesome. I don't think we'll buy that property, but it's a thought, and the one that stopped my insanity. 

Things can happen fast in a day. We've already started the timeline to sell our house and to move down there and it all freaks me out because this is way hecka fast and stressful and I don't want to leave. Some things I love about here:

-my girls at church that I teach, hang out with, play Just Dance with--I love them so much, I want them to all come with me.
-our home, it's a reflection of us, we've spent countless hours as a family working on it, almost always a weekend project that attaches us to it even more.
-our yard, which is paradise to me when I sit on the orange swing watching my kids play or reading my scriptures with the twinkle lights on. 
-bike path in back yard. We put in a bike path for the kids to cruise around and where they both recently learned how to ride their bikes without training wheels on their own. Josh and I cruising around with them on scooters. 
-my circle stones we put in, those make me happy every time I pull up to the house and play in the backyard. It looks like they're always smiling at me. I think they are.
-the fact that our homes don't look like much even though they cost too much, I love that it doesn't look pretentious or feels fancy, it's much too old of a neighborhood to be one that tries to keep up with the Joneses.
-our quaint elementary school .3 miles down the road that we love to walk/jog/ride to--also with a sweet park by it. 
-Safeway, Jamba Juice, Coldstone 2 minutes walk behind our house--yet we still live in a residential neighborhood and can't see any of it!
-an awesome neighbor RIGHT across the street, my age, with two kids my oldest kids ages. More great friends just blocks away.
-church 2.4 miles away.
-library 2.4 miles away--or another handful of libraries a mile more.
-excellent pediatrician 2.5 miles away (won't be sad to see my lame OB practice go at Kaiser though, see ya!)
-City's Montessori preschool we could jog to and eat lunch on our walk home together. It was a great school that was out of a modest looking home, my perfect fit.
-TONS of friends all within a few miles. How am I so lucky? Seriously, I am in primo central spot to get to have so many great people all around.
-Josh's aunt and uncle nearby who we adore
-running trails nearby
-YMCA I can jog to that I LOVE. The childcare people there are like surrogate family for my kids, I love them, they love my kids, I love them, I love the facility, it's a highlight of my day going there.
-beaches, city, wilderness, all within an hour.
-Ghiradelli chocolate factory outlet--the real one in San Leandro with real steals and deals
-bazillion parks to choose from within a few miles
-any ethnicity of people and restaurants everywhere with delish food
-jogging to the farmers market as a family Saturday mornings, I will sorely miss this one. I love Murphy Street where the market it, I love the market, I love buying my herb slab from Acme Bread every week.

And more. 

I'm going to wrap this sucker up now. It's been therapeutic to gush my heart out. I will be glad I have it when I read this a year from now when I'll be loving the new place we'll be in and knowing that we made it through and are still happy and loving our life there with more friends and new memories and a happy husband who likes what he does and realizing that my kids will probably be okay after all and that it might even be a blessing. 

Let the games begin.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Patara Elephant Farm Review


Patara Elephant Farm Review

Today we did our elephant "owner for a day" and it was awesome!! Josh had 1% interest in it but humored me in going. There are 18 places to choose from in this city and I spent quite a bit of time choosing a place and am so glad I did. There are a lot of differences in the different places and this hit it perfectly. They take great care of the elephants which is debatable at many, I guess you have to poke them with knives to train them since they're hard to domesticate, so lots of places with all the elephant tricks have used that method, at least around here. Anyway, the elephant population has dramatically been declining the past 300 years, something like 40,000 to 3,500 now b/c of tech and not a lot of need for them, so they've been dying off, esp that last 20 years has been a huge drop. So they adopt elephants and use tourists to come and "adopt them for a day" so you can learn a lot about them and help take care of them and pay for the program. It was incredible!!

Josh's cousin went on his mission here and before we came and before I knew about this place, I asked if there was anywhere we could ride an elephant bareback. He said no, nobody does that anymore b/c of safety and liability reasons, you all have to sit in a chair now. That wasn't the case and I was thrilled, it was much better than that. After teaching us a few things, he asked me to come up and feed the elephant in front of the group. It was pretty nerve wracking to be honest because you're supposed to put your hand in their mouth b/c if you pull it to the side, they'll swing their head closer to you to get it so you yell, "bone!" and they open their mouths up high and you put your hand in and feed them sugar cane and baby bananas. Then you say, "D D" for good job. They gave us each a basket and we fed the whole thing to them super fast b/c they just wolfed it down. My legs were shaky b/c she was SO fast eating it and kept opening that giant mouth right in my face so fast (I can just see it now, "an elephant bit my face!" to top Pinky's job). They weren't tied up or anything and we were basically alone with them, the mahouts (their lifelong helpers/sometimes owners) were roaming around, but not right by us. Once she gobbled them up and I told her there weren't any more she scrounged for more food. I asked and as would be expected, pregnant ones eat nearly twice as much. Normal ones eat about 400 pounds a day, though I don't know how it's possible to eat more!

THey helped us find a good match for an elephant. I got the one I was demonstrating with--he also had me come up and brush the elephant and tell her to lye down and whack the dirt off her. It was really intimidating having that giant thing soooo close and laying down by me. She was also 15 months pregnant, so she was a big girl. They gave Josh the only male in the group and he was giant. There were 8 of us total (a couple of other groups were already out, but they try to keep them small). There was one other guy, he and his wife were on their honeymoon and he was also dragged there bc of his wife :). After we fed them, we pulled on their ear yelling, "Ma! Ma!" and led them down into some water where we got to bathe them. That was my favorite part of the day, pretty surreal for me. We scrubbed them down and then told them to lay down in the water and we go on their backs and washed them. It was so incredible b/c they were just giant, but so calm and beautiful and those big eyes just looking at you all pleasantly like they were saying, "Thanks for the massage!" It was our in the jungle with a waterfall behind us, SO cool. They took stunning photographs during it too which I'll try to send when I can get the other computer up with the CD drive.

Josh's elephant seemed to be a little stubborn, which was sort of funny. I was hoping today would help instill more of a love for animals when he got to work all day with one, but I don't think it worked. His elephant was hot to trot for the ladies in the group and during our lunch break was getting it on with one. Josh told me later he was nervous they were going to stop him when it was time to go b/c it was taking a while and he'd end up with a frustrated elephant who was already stubborn, I am laughing out loud again just thinking about him telling me about it! It was SO funny. Then we got to climb up onto the elephants. There were two ways to get up, unless you were on Boon, the male, and then you had to do it one way. I climbed up the leg of mine, but Josh had his bend down and he leaned up, grabbed a rope and jumped up on the neck, then turned around one on. I think that's why they had Josh ride him bc he's so tall.

Riding was really cool. They gave us clothes to wear--the top so we looked like a trainer to the elephant, the pants to protect our legs. Their hair was SOO wirey, really rough. Having ridden horses gave me an advantage i think b/c although it was different and much higher, it wasn't that weird. It was weird having no bridal or anything to hold on to. The mahouts were always nearby, but mine wasn't really close by much b/c my girl was so tame I think, she just followed everyone. Josh's kept going off on his own and it freaked me out a few times (and makes me crack up again just thinking about it) b/c I was behind him and it seriously looked like his elephant was about to go off sharp drop offs several times and there isn't anything really you can do about it as a rider. His mahout had to keep pushing him and yelling at him to move away from places. We went up some pretty steep up and downhills where the paths were quite rocky and only a couple of feet wide by some drop offs. It was thrilling to say the least in those spots, esp b/c we'd get backed up sometimes and you'd be stuck by the edge.

Then we arrived where they keep the babies and their mamas and it was awesome. It was so precious and incredible (overuse of the word, I know, but it was!). There were four babies 4 months-2 years and they were so playful. I can't wait to send pics! After a nice break there, they had us share elephants with our "lovers" or friends. I sat in front on the elephants head basically with my legs on her face with Josh behind. That was only for the last 30 minutes. The novelty had worn off for Josh by the who was drenched in sweat and his inflexible legs were giving him charlie horses since they were pulled up for so long. I keep laughing while I write this, maybe you can imagine it. Everyone else is in paradise talking about how cool and surreal it was and Josh was like, get me off this thing. I told him we had another two hours and he said he didn't. Ends up they over estimated the time, so that was the end of the riding. We just fed them more food, then went to a shop where we looked at our pics and ate ice cream before the beautiful drive home. We met some really nice people and tonight Josh even said he was glad we did it!

It started to pour on our way home, timing couldn't have been better since it was forecast to rain all day. We showered once back and laid down for a nap, jetlag is still lagging ;). Then we both woke up feeling groggy, at some good THai food and walked to the street market. Josh then split and went to a Muay Thai boxing match while I planned to shop the night away, but I ran out of money about 20 minutes after he left so my night was cut short (it was only about $20 anyway). I bought a couple of shirts for the kids, some lights for outside and some saffron for cheap! I didn't even have a cent left for a ride home, so I had a hot sticky walk back. We passed the elders on the way to the market too which was really fun to see too! I've been cooling off and relaxing here since. Josh just came in and ran back out to buy some mango sticky rice, which happens to be night and day from the kind in the states, SO good.

Off to eat the yummies! XO Afton

China Layover update


I decided I wanted a place to put some of my journaling from our Thailand trip, so here it is cyberspace.

Thailand!!! We left our house in CA at 5:30am Friday morning and 5 airports later, we arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand Sunday night. This place isn't easy to get to and we've had a few adventures and mishaps getting here (which is to be expected when traveling outside the comfort of the states), but we arrived and LOVE it here!!! We had layovers in LA and Shanghai and Kunming, China before getting here. Shanghai we were able to leave the airport and stay at a hotel.

Thanks to jetlag, we only slept from 1am-5am so we were able to make good use of our 12 hours outside the airport eating pea ice cream and lo mein from a street vendor. We expected to get out and see the rural area around no-where China too during our 7 hour layover, but no ATMs would take our funny American visa or bank account card. Which happened to be a problem not just because we were stuck at a nothing-to-do airport which no chairs to lay down in, but we were really really hungry and had run out of money. We finally managed to find a cup of soup for just over a buck and it was the best $1 spent on our vaca so far.

Thoughts on China from our itty bitty experience: China is still communist (imagine that) and they want you to know they are watching you, everywhere, all the time. The people are hard workers, early to bed, early to rise: they were all in bed by 10:30 and all up at 6am working out and dancing all over the town Sunday morning. Okay, broad generalization, but that's what it looked like--I have tons of pics. Serious people, kitchy cheap stuff to sell, interesting food, resourceful.

And now for some sleep...

And we're off on our adventure! Step one, getting there


We made it to Shanghai for our layover! We left the house Friday morning at 5:30am and got to the airport an hour before take off. The check in lady wasn't thrilled bc she said we needed a visa in China. Josh had checked and he said if it's less than 48 hours you don't. She said she couldn't put us on the plane though since the system told us we had to have a visa. She got her supervisor though and they figured out a way to do it after finding the details Josh mentioned--that were correct and specific to Shanghai I guess. She said in all her 36 years of working there she hadn't encountered something like that. We were relieved and got on a flight to LA.

We had a 6 hour layover in LA where we found out we could use the AA lounge b/c we were flying business class so Josh made good use of it and worked. It wasn't a great time for him so we were happy to wrap that up and left the airport to walk to a grocery store that had a redbox in it where we needed to return some dvds. It was an amusing walk. We found ourselves stuck in a huge mostly empty parking lot at the airport in 90 weather wondering around with our carry-ons. Josh suggested we climb the wall to get out, which worked, but it was a tall drop on the other side. We got out of there fast since it said restricted space on the other side. We returned the dvds, grabbed a sandwich and went back to board the next flight.

Business class on an international flight is like a slice of heaven. It was incredible. I tested out my seat buttons immediately trying all the various reclining positions and checking out the toiletries bag. We were salivating over the menu and 3 meals we'd get and all the movies they were showing that we would get to enjoy on a 14 hour flight.  We enjoyed the first meal, complete with a ben and jerry's ice cream sundae. Then we watched a Chinese foreign film about some Chinese guys running around in Thailand, that was interesting.  Then we fell asleep.


I woke up a few times for a pit stop, but Josh didn't. I accidentally woke him up on one and told him we had an hour left, which he was seriously bummed about b/c he thought we had 7 hours left and a few movies to go. It went by way too fast!

We got through customs and everything okay at the airport but discovered immediately that almost nobody knows a lick of English--we're talking nothing. Not even what "how much" means to the taxi -- ripped us off and smiled as he took away our money we didn't have change for. He also dropped us off a few blocks away from our hotel and pointed down a road for us to find the hotel.  We dragged our luggage around trying to find it and didn't, but it was SO cool ! It was in the old city, which looks like it's right out of the movies with cool Chinese architecture and tea shops. I kept stopping for lots of pics, which J loved. We found a policeman and showed him the map, and he pointed back to where we'd been dropped. We went back and walked a few more blocks and found the hotel.  We checked in and then went to where they had free desserts and the front desk guy came up and (somehow found us--also weird, we were in a lounge, not the first floor) and told me that the govt had called and said my passport expired today, but Josh was fine until tomorrow. I had to ditch my yummy treats and go find the passports. Ours both had the same dates, but they had just gotten it wrong somehow, so it worked out. We also noticed driving here that there were several spots along the highway with bright flashing lights and cameras taking pics. Creepy.

We started walking around at what was 7am California time, 10pm Saturday night here--9 hour bay for Josh. Happy bday Heidi too! Anyway, the city had basically shut down by then, so it was a little creeepy, but we found one cool street open full of food vendors and bought some noodles, a cabbage pancake and some funky treats at a grocery--pea ice cream bar in honor of the Parks kids--which tasted way too good to be peas (not that I'd order it over others, but it was good) and some minty flower gum that is really fun, an Asian pear, mochi, red bean cream marshmallows, fried strawberry cookies and black glutinous rice and coconut milk drink--which as all pretty tasty actually.

Pics later when I can update!

Friday, September 14, 2012

College, I mean preschool decision

I am tied up in knots about preschool. You'd think I was worrying about what college my kids are going to. With Hazel, I felt totally comfortable doing coop preschools with other parents, it was fun and worked out great. With Felicity, well, she's a different girl. She needs some structured school at this point. She barely missed the kinder cut off and while I think she could use another year before starting, I think she's certainly ready for some in school education to prep her for full day school.

I had her enrolled in an inclusion program through the city--a class of high functioning autistic kids with 2-3 "typical" kids to help them mainstream. Felicity was trying for the spot for a typical kid and it was quite an enrollment process with tons of paper work and screening her with various tests from cutting to jumping to walking on a line, etc. When she was accepted I was so excited, but it's not turning out how I hoped. Apparently all the other kids dropped out before the program started and so it was just her and six autistic boys. We've given it a month and they still haven't found anyone else. They did an art craft once a day and then a 15 minute circle time at the end, but the rest was more social acclimation. They were going to introduce letters later in the year once the kids got used to it.

It's a really awesome idea, but I think would be way better if they had half and half autistic and "typical." The benefit to the "typical" kid is a mega cheap preschool (was free up until this year) and compassion for those that are different than them. I realized that my social little girl was playing beside kids in class rather than with them because that's what happens with autism. I expected that of course, but expected more typical kids to play with in there so it wasn't so quiet and lonely. I told them a week ago that it was her last day but they convinced me to stay one more week to go to back to school night, so we did. While there, one dad told us about how miraculous this program was for his older son (his second son is also autistic and in the program now) and thanked me profusely for being a part of this program. I felt SO AWKWARD!!! It was all very quiet and serious and there was a circle of about 8 of us and I didn't have the heart to tell him I was probably pulling her from it, esp since she's the only typical kid in it.

I've been feeling so torn. I knew it would be good for the autistic kids, but I just didn't feel like it was doing much for City and almost the opposite for her personality. I could probably give her more of what she needed with playdates, workbooks and museum trips. A year ago this would have been a great fit, learning basic colors and letters, but this year it just isn't.

I've been going all over to other preschools and found two that I fell in love with. One is a Catholic school that is AWESOME! SUPER nice staff, saintly even ;). Since the school goes all the way through 8th grade, they have bigger and better facilities than regular preschools. They have a new computer lab with Apple computers, a library they can check books out of, PE class twice a week, Spanish, etc. I mean SO COOl. I wasn't keen on the uniforms idea since I love seeing how City dresses (although what kid doesn't look cute in a uniform) and my friend pointed out that if you start your kid off in an awesome school, kindergarten is going to be a big let down.

The other school is a Christian Montessori school. It's in an old outdated house and doesn't look like much, but inside they have four classes that are unique to Montessori. The way of learning is fascinating, I could see City really grasping concepts through their methods of hands on learning. The whole way of teaching and learning is different than what I've seen anywhere else, I'd love to go myself to see what and how they do things! She is so into movement and handling things, this place looked great too.

I've been stewing over this for so long that it really sounds like a college decision. The reason why is because I think how she goes into kindergarten will really set the stage for how she feels about school generally. I knew Hazel would love it and would do well, but City doesn't speak up a lot of the time. I can see her silently falling behind and embarrassed to tell us if she didn't understand things. Josh felt strongly about getting her started in school with a good foundation that would give her confidence when she starts so she'll enjoy school and will do well.

The worst part so far was just now writing the emails to the school she's dropping out of and telling the lady at the Catholic school we're not going there (we told her we were going to start City there last week and then noticed additional fees that started really adding up and put the brakes on a little). I feel so bad leaving the program without them having any other typical kids in it, I really hope they find some so it's successful, but I realized we have to do what's best for City. The choice between the other two preschools felt like choosing between two awesome and very different guys to marry! I am SO glad I never had that problem.

Here's hoping that Montessori schools really are as awesome as they sound! I hope I don't have buyers remorse.


Monday, August 20, 2012

New blog purpose--running

Me again, and this may just be for me since I haven't written in about 4 months and I seriously doubt anyone looks at this anymore. That's just as well since what I want to write about is running and I don't think there is a soul I know who would want to read my thoughts about running, but that's consuming a lot of my thoughts as of late and for the next 7 weeks, so I'm going to dish them out to the running gods, or cyberspace, in hopes that I'll chill out since I'm unloading.

Let me say this first. I hate that my last post about how tough the last 8 months had been is what's been up for almost 4 months so anyone that sees that and then nothing for a long time might be concerned. If you were so kind, don't worry you're pretty little head, the summer has been blissfully lazy--after a crazy few months of insane work on the house that is. We hosted a small party for Josh's firm this summer and that was a serious shot in the arm for me to get the house fixed up. I worked day and night, literally, well into the night many times, trying to get the house, my art projects and other silly pet projects done in time for the party.

After everyone left.
Kids fairy corner. Still not totally finished, but whatevs.
The best relaxing spot. I bought a new seat cushion for the swing (that I painted instead of black and love, but not the cushions), but it didn't arrive in time. Neither did my pretty sheer curtains, they have since arrived and are sitting in a box waiting for someone to care. Josh wired it for electricity, which I thought was pretty hot and then strung the lights inside it the night of my 30th bday. The real present was when he had one more light left (and it was sort of a pain to do with little bitty staples and a big hammer and mega fragile lights that kept breaking) and I thought it all looked wrong and redid the layout. We went in the house at 10:30pm to enjoy some cake my mom sent since we didn't have time to do anything like that. So worth it, I LOVE it!

This was our house before we painted it, but as we laid sod earlier this year. You should picture it with trashy dead trees and rocks and plants and dirt everywhere first, then this was the improved house and yard. That's a bag of grey river rocks we shoveled out to our walk ways that are so pretty.
House after it's makeover. I learned that power washers are immensely satisfying--take note of the fence before and after!! We also had the house painted...twice. I drove up to find a bright turquoise house and almost cried, it was horrendous. We had them change it that day. Then added a bright orange panel, too bright as usual, changed it to yellow. Painted our front door yellow too, so happy! Added circle stepping stones, lights, and voila.


Had the party, it was fun and I soaked up being in a tranquil backyard that I looked at thinking of all the little bits we had worked on and was mostly in love with just sitting out there all evening with the company. After the party, I immediately on a whirlwind tour of family reunions and by the time I got back, I was ready to find out what the "lazy days of summer" really were all about--I truly can't remember EVER feeling like I've had one of those. Plenty of fun summers, but I can't remember feeling bored or lazy. BRING IT ON! I'd paid my dues to the house and yard and felt entitled to just enjoy vegging out the summer with my kids. I know I just used the word "entitled" and it just sounds like a dirty word any more doesn't it? With Hazel starting school today though, real life has started again.

It has been a marvelous 6 weeks of just playing and hanging out with my kids and Josh has even gotten to join us sometimes, hooray! And the running, I couldn't get off without doing any hard work, so I ran in prep for the St. George Marathon I'm doing with my sister October 6. I've trained like someone I would say is off their rocker in hopes that I could snag my goal I missed a few years ago. I plan on this being my last marathon and I want my goal time SOOO badly and then I want to put this all to rest and just enjoy my group classes at the YMCA and family jogs. And here is where this will all get very boring.

I thought I trained hard then, but I've almost doubled my mileage now and my midweek runs have gotten way faster--but not my weekend runs. That's actually how every single training book I've read says you should do it, so I thought I was on top of things, then I signed up for a half marathon to see how I was doing and I came in 5-10 minutes slower than I expected and I was crushed. That was two weeks ago and I've been in a funk about it since. I don't think it was just a bad day either, my whole body felt tired from the beginning and it was just hard. Since then I've gone from being totally pumped about the marathon to feeling down about it since I'm putting all this work in and don't know how to fix things--it's only 7 weeks away. I went to the library and checked out the 8 books that were at all relevant, and even some non-relevant ones about people's stories about ultra running just to see if I could find any useful advice.

Last night I scoured the web for training schedules and it was sort of annoying that there are vastly different opinions on how to go about it. I am so confused and lost about what to do. I decided it's not working for me how it's going and I was faster on fewer miles before with more speedwork, so I'm basically doing that with some other tweaks. This is what I was doing and this is what I'm switching to. I'm nervous about changing it and cutting back, it doesn't sound right, but I'm hoping it will help. And now I wish I had maintained this somewhat so I had people to read this and give me some good ideas! And if you know anyone in the bay area that wants to run 20 miles with me. I just did that alone last week and it was so boring I almost scratched my eyes out. Join me! I won't scratch your eyes out!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Climbing Back to Earth

Hey old friends. And any of you having your birthdays today, hey very old friends. I've about dropped off the face of the earth, but I'm climbing my way back in. It's not pleasant down there. What's new with me? Funny you should ask, lets talk about me.

Josh has been traveling almost every week since August. 1-2 trips sometimes, sometimes it's been 4-6 day trips. Last week he was gone a few days, came home for literally 24 hours and was off again. I think he's only been home for three solid weeks since August including the week of Christmas, and then I'm not sure where else, but I'm pretty sure there were two more somewhere. While Josh was traveling, I lounged by the tv and ate bon bons.

Of course all three of my kids got sick, and naturally I did too. We're talking months here, not a passing cold. But we had those too, those were sort of permanent. We also had a broken arm in there, bronchitis x2, ear infections, some lung infection, sinus infection, a rash that covered Rhett's whole body (ended up being severe eczema, thankfully not ring worm as I suspected), flu (multiple kids), 4 cut molars and I completely lost my voice, well, I had a super quiet whisper, but you should try to get your kids attention with a tiny whisper. I had to clap my hands to get their attention. All heck broke loose the week I lost my voice and I decided it was a blessing for everyone I didn't have a great capacity. Oh, and I was still nursing Rhett during the night (I know, but he slept in that way and I didn't want to end the nursing and he wouldn't do it during the day). A regular night would include me getting up at least once with one of my sick kids or for myself to find cough meds.  I was tired. Kids and I were falling apart.

There were other elements that made it tough, but don't you hate it that some of the toughest things you deal with are on the more confidential side? Anyway, there was a lot going on. After a monumental break down after Rhett cried for almost 6 hours straight with me hiding under my covers doing the same, all while I was supposed to be packing for a family road trip down to Vegas that day. I was just paralyzed from all the crying. I finally let all the emotions from the past several months pour out. I usually find that it's hard for me to cry any more. The past many years I often wish I could get a good cry out, but it's like my tear ducts just dried up after the first few years of marriage. So this cry was a long time coming!

I had some serious talks with J-man to reevaluate things. I'm ever impressed with the single parent and I can tell you one thing, I am not cut out to be one.  I also told some friends about my breakdown because I was sort of crying out for help. I was feeling like I was losing interest in things I normally enjoyed. I was just so tired, all the ways, that I had no energy to pursue things I used to enjoy, everything felt like work.

We prayed and fasted and I am feeling much better. I reviewed the book, "Geography of Bliss" for a book club and while I didn't really like the book and I couldn't stand listening to the whiny author reading it (audio), I found it really helpful to do some happiness research for the discussion. I realized that I've taken on a more "realistic" view of life instead of the always "glass half full" I was accustomed to for so long. I decided right then and there, or here since it was on the computer, that I can simply choose to be happier. I can choose to be more grateful for the little things, I can choose to look at my day as great instead of good. I mean really, it makes a difference and it's SO much more fun! I think for a while I felt like I had such a marvelously easy and delicious life if I told Josh how awesome my days were and didn't want him to feel bad, so I'd give him the good and the bad and not trump it up too much. Well not any more, it's no secret there are hard times, so I think we'd both be better off really enjoying the good. We've both been working on being more optimistic and it's been so great! Then my sister came to visit, which was awesome and I also got to see Mandy and Carrie, two of my dearest friends from high school, and considering that was in Ohio, it's a big deal any time I see friends from the past.

SNEAKING FOOD...

The past few days have been a mix of some of the best and worst days. Awesome fun two days with the kids Friday with friends and outings and Saturday I ran 10 miles on the treadmill at the Y and was SO proud of myself, and it was my fastest pace in years. Then their was a fun kids party outside after and we all got henna done on our hands. Josh was home for an afternoon and it was just a great day.

Then Sunday came and Josh left and the kids continued their streak of getting into food and treats and hiding them throughout the house made for a frustrating evening. And nail polish. And make up (the last two while I was on the phone crying to my parents about everything else that had happened). I can't even explain the amount of things they got into. I did a clean sweep on their toys and left them a couple of dolls to play with. I'm sick of fighting them to clean up. I felt so good afterwards!

Anyway, new method today of putting pepper on tongues for any time they sneak food. After their reactions I thought it may work. It didn't, found graham crackers and applesauce in their bed. I thought they were just playing nicely under their fort, I didn't know what they had under it. I can't wait until they try to hide things as teenagers...I decided a new trick for tomorrow. All they will get to eat are graham crackers. It is going to be SO hard for me to stick to this, but we'll try it. Wish me luck! BTW, this is only something I'm really tired of because EVERY day they get into things, hide it in their new swing set (they can't totally be seen from the house now), in all the rooms, crumbs everywhere, things spilled, rotting, etc., and not hungry for dinner. And they're flat out being disobedient and lying endlessly about it.

THE GOOD RUSSIAN NEWS:

We are going to RUSSIA this week! WAHOO! Both of our parents are coming in and are trading off part way through. I'm going to tell them to put the kids through boot camp. No fun spoiling this time. I know that won't be what happens exactly, but at least they can try their hand at it. I'm looking into what we should do there, Josh has an itinerary (he served his mission in St. Petersburg) but I need to do some reading still. Right now I would consider my stress level to be at red. I have anxiety about all the reading and studying I haven't done in getting ready to go as I had hoped to do. My house has a million projects I was hoping to get done before our families came. My house is temporarily trashed with bags full of things to assist in my projects so I need to figure it out asap. I have a ton of errands to do before the fams come, returns, groceries, some things I need to get, etc. I am hoping this stress pushes me into high productivity mode. Right now it needs to push me into the kitchen to clean. I know this may seem like a waste of my time to be writing all this, but it's actually pretty therapeutic,

Q: Would you go to a Russian Banya? 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy April Fools Day!

First off, I'd like to say I totally agree with this April Fools statement. But lucky all of you potential innocent victims, I'm having to postpone my great ideas I've thought about all year until next.

Things I'd only say today (April 1):

-Josh is excited to go to work tomorrow.
-I can't wait to do more housework tomorrow. And I love being tired.
-Hazel and Felicity didn't fight one bit today.
-Rhett slept in.

But things I would tell you any day:

-I'm so glad Josh has a job. And I'm so glad he goes even though it's hard.
-I'm grateful I have a house and a yard and I love it when it's clean and orderly. And I love the girls bathroom cabinet being organized after my weekend project. I even left the doors open for two days so I could enjoy the order of it all.
-Hazel and Felicity melt my heart when they giggle all night long together when they're supposed to be asleep.
-Rhett greets me with his delightful smile while my eyes are still begging to shut again. He can break the most serious faces into a grin with his smiles and cuddles.

Hope you got away with loads of lies without consequence today!

Love, your pregnant, newly engaged, moving to Paris, adopting twins from China, house caught on fire, shoot, pants too,

Afton

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!


I used to treat this day like a national holiday. Or rather a personally significant holiday since many national holidays go unnoticed any more. I could write a paper on Leap Day if I had free time to kill and if I liked writing papers. I think it's such a marvelous idea, an extra day. Here we all go about asking for more time and saying what we would do with it, and then every four years, we actually get a whole extra day, and what do we do with it? Same old, same old. And that's just un-American! Or something like that.

If I were president, I'd force everyone to not work, not go to school, not waste all their time on the mundane or scheduled bits of life they are used to. I guess I'd be more of a dictator, but who wouldn't like a dictator that makes them chill out once every four years? I think it's a grand idea. I really wish it was a national holiday that people truly honored and celebrated because how cool would that be if it was known to be a day to live in the moment and use it as a day where you were given something extra? A sort of invisible, doesn't count kind of day. I ate cupcakes today that I'll write off as invisible calories. I also had a crummy night that I'll just erase from my memory because today didn't really count anyway. What a novel idea. I love this free day concept!

Life has been a bit crazy for us recently, so today wasn't much of a celebrating day, rather a survival kind of a day. But in the future, I want to make a big deal out of it with the kids, take them out of school to go do something fun, "24 hours of free time" traditions! Here's to the future.

See you again in four years my extra day!

Q: Do you celebrate leap day?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mini retro chairs, ranch house, SALE!

I'm not a sale, coupon or deal blog, but man, I can't resist posting some of my favorite things! I just made it through one of my favorite catalogs from cb2 I saved from Christmas because I loved the cover (they're part of the crate and barrel fam). I was drooling with gross delight last night over these mini retro chair ornaments:


I kept the catalog out so I could see if they were on sale today since they were technically Christmas ornaments, and wouldn't you know it they were--$.50 each on sale!!!!!!!!!!! I bought a few, and then some more. I might use them as ornaments, but I think I might use them as a wall display on a shelf or something.

I know I might sound like a nut, but I have had this page from their catalog torn out and on my fridge for close to 4 months now because I love this house. Actually, I had a bigger page torn out that has a huge picture of Jackie O in a living room and everyone things I have it up because I like her, but then on a small shelf is this little gem.
I can't really explain why I love it so much, but I do. I want to move right in. And I understand now why my girls love to play house so much, I want to set up shop with my little chairs and this house. But this small house is $60.

Then I saw this snow globe, which I fell in love with since I also love snow globes, and it was $40. Still pricey and it's not as cute as the real deal, but it catches the gist of it. Just checked on the sales page, $15. Wahoo! It might not be merely a Christmas decoration in this house.



Q: Do you like this sort of thing?

The "F" word, from a kindergartener

Hazel got serious at dinner last night and said that so and so said the "F word" at school. Josh and I shared a quick glance and then asked Hazel what word, she didn't want to tell us. So we asked what it rhymed with and she reluctantly told us, "art."

I dread the day when the rhyme changes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Zara sale-Girls dress $10 Free shipping

I love Zara's kids clothes. Looooove them. We bought the girls outfits for our family picture there and I just got an email from them and decided to just drool for a bit even though I think I've bought things there maybe 4 times in my life, and only once for my kids.

But get this, with their new online shop, it's free shipping and they're having a sale. One of the best things is this dress for $10.


Josh was looking over my shoulder and told me to buy it, which was a bit surprising since he usually says don't buy, doesn't matter what it its, that's just his usual advice :). I bought two more adorable dresses.

If you get things for you kids there though, they tend to run much smaller than other brands. I bought my 5 yr old, 60th % in height and weight, a size 7/8.

Happy Zara!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1 Day Picaboo coupon

Picaboo photo book

I've used Picaboo for a few photo books and I really like that you can customize them any which way. I think they have way too many options for picture backgrounds, and not enough of the styles I would like (or at least can find), but they always have great sales, the best customer service and pretty decent books.

They are having a ONE DAY sale that ends in 13 hours, so if you're interested in making a photo book, they are selling a $100 gift card for $30, you can buy three. I just made the worlds largest photo book and when it rang up, it was $160, and I was hoping to eventually get one for each kid by waiting for coupon deals, so I just bought three coupons to go towards them.

Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012